Monday, December 31, 2007

Podcasts about town

In this era of user-generated content and multi-media marketing, it's no surprise that tourism bureaus are turning to online videos and podcasts to market their destinations. Meet Minneapolis has produced a series of short videos about various aspects of the city--things to see and do, shopping, food and drink. Several of these videos are hosted by really interesting individuals, like fashion designer Katherine Gerdes and food critic/TV show host Andrew Zimmern and they give viewers a glimpse into why the city and the state are cool destinations. They've also uploaded footage from national programs where Minneapolis is getting its props (e.g. the Chambers Hotel on the Today Show)

The site also has a couple of audio podcasts, but this is where I think there could be some real upgrades. Go Philadelphia--the web arm of the tourism bureau--has this amazing program called "SoundAboutPhilly." As the website says:
"SoundAboutPhilly is a new series of free, customizable sound-seeing tours told by "real" Philadelphians. The stories are accompanied by dynamic mapping, audio, text and vivid photography that provide a more intimate illustration of Philadelphia and can help you find your way around once you arrive. Concentrated on insider, lesser-known Philadelphia experiences, SoundAboutPhilly combines interesting tales, fun facts and lively music to tell not only stories from the city's rich past, but also its vibrant present."
How cool is that? It's like having your own hipster insider taking you to neighborhoods that you'd probably never find on your own! Even if you don't care about Philadephia, check out the website to see how cool these podcasts are. We definitely need this for Minneapolis-St. Paul!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A park...there?!?!

This summer, I was walking home from the Midway YMCA and noticed official-looking brown signs along a strip of grass on the north side of University Avenue that said "Park hours sunrise to 10PM..." I looked around trying to figure out where on earth this park was. Turns out, I'm not the first person to be confused. University United provides some history of this swath of greenspace:

"Dickerman Park is a linear green space on the north side of University Avenue in St. Paul, between Fairview Avenue and Aldine Street. It was donated to the City in 1909 by the Dickerman Investment Company and Griggs, Cooper and Company at a time when University Avenue was envisioned to become a grand landscaped boulevard. Because it has the appearance of private property, many people in the surrounding community are unaware that this plot of land is a City-owned park. It abuts the Griggs Midway Building; Midway Family YMCA; Metro Sound and Lighting; Community Learning Centers Building; and Marsden Maintenance/American Security."

Right now, there's not a lot to do there, cars go by on University, have a picnic and feel like you're trespassing. There's also not a lot to look at as you pass by on University Avenue either. In 2004 or so, University United partnered with the Minneapolis-based landscape architecture firm Coen + Partners and the photographer Wing Young Huie (who I wrote about last month), to develop a design plan for the park. There are some interesting ideas in it, but it's not clear that anything is happening any time for now, as you cruise down University, you can tell surprised passengers "hey, you see that lawn in front of that building? That's a city park!"

Image: University United

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Neighborhood Cafes: The Great Third Place

The "third place" (i.e. the place that is neither your home nor your job, but a gathering spot where you like to hang out) was popularized in Ray Oldenburg's 1999, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community.

Cafes are surely my favorite third place since I love coffee, like to freeload WiFi, and enjoy a change of scenery every now and again. Since moving to St. Paul, I've discovered some great little cafes tucked right into residential neighborhoods. My current favorites include:

J & S Bean Factory

-- Hamline Midway location @ Thomas and Hamline
-- Highland location on Randolph just off of Snelling

Java Train
-- in the Como Park neighborhood on Pascal, just north of Midway Parkway.

Swede Hollow Cafe -- in the Swede Hollow/Dayton's Bluff neighborhood on East 7th.

Nina's Coffee Cafe (pictured above)--in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood on Selby @ Western.

Jerabek's on the Westside is on my list to check out ASAP-- but I haven't made it there yet. Readers, what are your favorite St. Paul and Minneapolis coffee shops?

Image: Allen Zumach photo art.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Most Literate Cities in the US: Minneapolis #1 and St. Paul #3

It seems like someone is ranking some facet of city-life every other day, but I thought it was nice to see our lovely cities ranked for their bookishness (only Seattle squeaked in between them!) With our great libraries, two fairly strong newspapers, and independent booksellers like Micawbers, Common Good Books, Magers & Quinn, and Wild Rumpus I guess it's no surprise that we get some quality reading in! Oh yeah, and the winters too. See the rankings and the story here.

Image: Country Mouse Minnesota Daily Photographs, see:

MK's 5 Twin Cities New Year Resolutions

If I had perhaps a bit more time and energy, these "resolutions" might be more than the simple dreams they are now...but sometimes, putting pen to paper (or keystrokes to screen), breathes reality into fantasy.

1) Invite and secure affirmative RSVP from Calvin Trillin on invitation to sample the culinary delights of University, Franklin, and Central Avenues. Determine whether or not St. Paul's version of the Bahn mi sandwich can live up to others that he has eaten.

2) Find an arts group interested in turning the smooth white and curvy former Midway Chevrolet building into an installation arts space like the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh.

3) Help start a real estate company that is focused on bringing small commercial/office tenants (e.g. a mix of small businesses and sole proprietors looking for a studio/office) into small, cool spaces with the goal of revitalizing neighborhoods. The Cool Space Locator model is a good one!

4) Explore the city neighborhoods that I don't know at all (e.g St. Paul's neighborhoods east of 35E and North Minneapolis), take photos and write about them. [All the while convincing the toddler that this is great use of her time!!]

5) Through this blog and by more intensive means, show the world how great it is to live in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul!

Image: Leithauser Condominium Lofts, 800 E. 3rd, St. Paul. Robert Roscoe, archictect, who specializes in historic renovations and traditional infill buildings. See his projects at:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Roadside America

Since I am in the land of big things and roadside attractions (these links really are things that are less than 2-miles from me at the moment)--I thought I'd let folks know about some of the advances one of my favorite vacation planning websites has developed. Roadside America--the online guide to offbeat tourist attractions--now has a city version. Check out the Minneapolis-St. Paul area's local curiosities. Surely there must be more than this?!? Calling all kitsch-finders--give Roadside American more MSP material!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas, Y'all.

The MN Baileys are headed south to spend Christmas with the Texas Baileys. If you celebrate the holiday, have a merry one. I'll be back online late next week.


Buses, Trains, and Art?

When the Hiawatha line was in the midst of construction, Metro Transit launched its first foray into public art. But there doesn't seem to be any sort of on-going effort to bring artistic design to the transit system. I know, I know. Folks are probably thinking that the last thing our cash-strapped transit agency needs to do is spend money on public art, but take a look at some of these incredible examples in other parts of the country and think of how cool your bus/light rail stop and vehicles could be!

No surprise that New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority has an amazing public art program--ranging from poetry on subway cars, murals and mosiacs in stations, and even a sponsored performing arts series!

TRI-MET, the transit operator in Portland, OR, also has a great public art program that's focused on "celebrating the contributions of public transportation and recognizing the cultural richness in the region."

Dallas, Texas, which is a southern mecca for art to begin with, has also done it up when it comes to the DART system. Not only do they have art at 38 stations, they've also got this high-tech online tourbook that shows you the art at each station.

Los Angeles, despite rumors of being the place where residents love cars more than anything else, has invested heavily in the public art in the Metro system. They sponsor free art tours and have a free art guide if you want to take the tours yourself.

All images taken from the respective transit agency's public art websites.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Extra! Extra!

In the tradition of (which I wish would have a Minneapolis-St. Paul edition!), has stepped up to let young women (and arguably some young men) know what's hip and happening in Minneapolis. Both of these forums are basically girl-oriented (20s, 30s), shopping-heavy but occasional cool event-listing, blogs and e-newsletters. In my perusal of past issues of, I saw their reference to which bills itself as an urban navigator for "all that is progressive in American culture by emphasizing the value and ingenuity of independent business." They've got what looks like the beginnings of a Minneapolis edition -- right now, it's only highlighting a small handful of businesses in Uptown, 50th & France, and Downtown and Northeast. Little do they know what all they are missing!

Image: Borealis Yarns @ Hamline and Thomas, St. Paul.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It makes me giggle everytime I see it

How many of you can claim to have a Purrrniture store in your neighborhood? If you're looking for custom furniture for your favorite feline, head on down to the corner of Hampden and University.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Cities of Brotherly Love

The University UNITED (UU) awards reminded me that I've been meaning to post about the love I have for our top elected official in St. Paul and in Minneapolis. It is fantastic to have two cities governed by intelligent, articulate, principled, and inspiring Mayors.

As individuals, I think they have great programs and platforms--two of my favorites are St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's Invest Saint Paul program and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's partnership with the MN Chapter of the American Institute of Architect's on the Great City Design Team.

But what is even more impressive, and what they were being recognized for at the UU awards ceremony is their commitment to working together. These mayors realize that the success of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the current economy isn't based on competition between the two cities, but on collaboration and partnership. They pull together for big events (like the Republican National Convention next year); they jointly advocate for the Central Corridor Light Rail project, and they make sure that their staffs are in frequent communication.

Thank you both for being such enlightened leaders--it is a real pleasure to both live in, and next to, a city whose mayors you truly admire.

Image left: Rybak, from
Image: Coleman, from

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sculptures, Murals, Mosiacs, Oh My!

We went to the University UNITED annual awards ceremony the other night and learned about a really cool organization called FORECAST Public Artworks. While they've got a national following, they do amazing things here in the Twin Cities. Each year they commission 8 - 10 to MN artists to create public artworks. They've also been focused specifically on bringing public art to University Avenue in St. Paul. Take a look at some of the funky pieces they've commissioned in the past.

Red Alert
Al Wadzinski, 2003
Goodwill Easter Seals, University @ Cromwell

Out of the Woods
Marica McEachron, 2002
Episcopal Homes, University @ Fairview

Forged Roots
Lisa Elias, 2004
Security Building, Raymond @ University

All Images from FORECAST Public Artworks

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How walkable is your neighborhood?

A couple of months ago, some clever folks created a tool called "Walk Score." As the software developers say on their website, Walk Score is designed to "help homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods. Walk Score shows you a map of what's nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property. Buying a house in a walkable neighborhood is good for your health and good for the environment." Go ahead, type in your address, see what's nearby, and find out on a scale of 1:100 just how walkable your neighborhood is. (FYI: we scored a 78.)

Messy Urbanism

St. Paul and Minneapolis are blessed with what I'll call "messy urbanism." When urbanism is messy, you get great places like the Overflow Cafe on University Avenue, in the Minneapolis neighborhood of Prospect Park. The cafe abuts a business park and what appears to be an impound lot. And behind those buildings lie the towering grain silos and railroad tracks--remnants of our agricultural/industrial past.

Messy urbanism brings us the sleek, modern, Miami-looking Bookmen Stacks. These lofts are tucked between freeways and old brick warehouse buildings in the northern edge of Minneapolis' warehouse district.

Messy urbanism isn't afraid of disrupting order. It puts new next to old; modern next to traditional; industrial next to residential. This is the organic way that cities grow. It gives us the opportunity to discover surprises in the most unlikely places. It keeps things from being boring. Bring on the mess!

Image: Grain elevators, Martha Duerr
Image: Bookmen Stacks,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Paint the Pavement--slow traffic, create community

I used to live in Portland, OR--home to everything that is sustainable, community-oriented, and cutting edge in urban planning. We were out there a couple of years ago and decided to check out my old neighborhood in Southeast. We had heard about this cool neighborhood project, called "intersection repair" where residents, with permission from the city, turned their intersection into a public square (that vehicles can still easily travel through.) This particular project, known as the "Sunnyside Piazza" has a giant sunflower painted at the intersection of 33rd and Yamhill SE that slows traffic and invites people to look around. Residents have also built a solar-powered (natch) message kiosk and fountain.

So I was totally delighted to discover that the nation's only other "intersection repair" projects were in St. Paul's Hamline-Midway neighborhood!! Here it is known as "Paint the Pavement" and you can see the wonderful designs created by residents at the following intersections:

* Blair Avenue and Albert Street
* Van Buren Avenue @ Pascal and between Asbury and Simpson.

The whole purpose of these projects is to increase interaction among neighbors, create a strong sense of place and identity, make streets safer by slowing down traffic, and make the public realm more attractive. What a great way to make pavement pretty, tame traffic, and know neighbors!

St. Paul Image: "Peter"
Portland Image: from

Half-way to everywhere

They don't call it "the Midway" for nothing. Lately I've been loving my proximity to everything. When you have a young child, you realize that you've got a ticking time bomb on your hands. You've only got so many minutes before they must eat, sleep, get out of the car seat, etc--or else you face the explosive consequences. So I've been delighted to discover that I am 9 minutes away from the Rosedale parking lot; I'm about 9 minutes to my husband's office in downtown St. Paul (off-peak on I-94), and I'm about 10 minutes to the West Bank (off-peak). Of course traveling during rush hours can gum things up, but since I work at home, I can almost always avoid that. And this is one of the great things about urban living--you are close to many things. And when 94 is backed up, you can always jump on University or other parallel routes to get to where you're going!

Image: Midway Transportation Management Organization

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Under-Appreciated Alley

The humble alley is one of the key features that make our city neighborhoods distinct from our suburban neighbors. Do you ever notice how most homes in the suburbs greet the street with a two-to-three car garage and driveway? Here in St. Paul and Minneapolis most homes have garages tucked away in the back with alleyway access. I find that this makes for a much more pleasant environment as I walk, drive and bike through the cities' residential neighborhoods. Unlike other places I've lived, the neighborhoods here tend to have few scary alleys -- so my days of constant vigilance for rats, marauders, and rotting food seem to be over.

In fact, the alley behind our home even has historical significance. It is on a diagonal--which according to Larry Millett, is rare in St. Paul, and it is part of the old territorial road system that linked St. Paul to Saint Anthony Falls.
I love imagining the clip-clop of horse shoes and the bustle of goods moving between the two cities when I walk our dog down the alley at night. It's also amazing how I can see the modern twinkle of lights from the IDS and 226 South 6th buildings in downtown Minneapolis from this vantage too.

Image: from isn't an alley in the Twin Cities and I'm not actually sure where it is!

Map: From the Hamline-Midway History Corps: E.S. Norton Real Estate Map of Saint Paul - Hamline Midway detail (1886)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Taxation without Representation (an educational aside)

I told myself that once I left DC, I would do my best to educate others around the country about the sad state of democracy in our nation's capital. There are over 500,000 permanent residents (greater than the population of Wyoming) that live in DC. They pay federal (and district) taxes and serve in the military and on juries. And they don't have full representation in Congress. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton can vote in committee and participate in debates, but she cannot vote with the full House of Representatives. DC has no Senator.

Did you also know:

1) Residents of DC weren't able to vote for the President of the United States until the Constitution was amended in 1961, allowing residents to vote in the 1964 election!

2) The US Congress reviews and modifies DC's budget. It can annul laws passed by the District Council. The President is in charge of the judicial and penal system. Imagine living in a place where a Senator from Georgia (or pick another state) can change the laws of the land because they don't fit his/her point-of-view? And since when does a Senator from another state represent the 500,000 constituents living in the District?

As we fight for democracy abroad, I encourage you to think of the over 500,000 Americans who are not treated equally under our political system. If you want to learn more about this persistent injustice and efforts to reverse it, visit DC Vote's website.

Image: In 2000, then Mayor Anthony Williams and the Council of the District of Columbia changed the official license plate from "Celebrate and Discover" to "Taxation without Representation" to educate the country about the issue of voting rights in DC.

Monday, December 10, 2007

If you have to ask, darling...

I think it reveals something about my personality (and my issues!) but I can't help but walk into a social club and feel as though I'm going to be kicked out for some shortcoming or another. Might have to do with the time that I told my then-boyfriend, now husband, that he shouldn't wear a jacket to our dinner at the Cosmos Club because I didn't want to feel under-dressed. Well, I was, and he was forced to put on a house jacket that was 2 times too small. A trifle humiliating.

So on Saturday, when the Electric Arc Radio Show was held in the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, I felt the familiar clutch of insecurity, impropriety, and ineptitude as we traipsed up the carpeted stairs in our snowy shoes. We used the wrong entrance and ended up in a lobby where well-dressed women deep in conversation huddled and the demeanor was decidedly less irreverent radio show and more power lunch and cocktail. Yet as we descended a stairwell to reach the auditorium, I realized that if a club like this were willing to host an auditorium full of 89.3 The Current listeners, they must not be that stuffy. I enjoyed how the venue seemed so disjointed from the event. Elegance meets scruffy. I also loved how this club is tucked between a bunch of apartment buildings and overlooks Loring Park--giving the whole area a very New York or Chicago feel. So maybe this experience will change the way I feel the next time I encounter velvet ropes, engraved stone, and a well-heeled lobby.

Let them eat cake

I thought I'd had the best cupcakes around: CakeLove in Washington, DC; Cupcake Cafe in NYC; and A Piece of Cake on Selby Avenue in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. But then I experienced Cupcake on University Avenue near Prospect Park in SE Minneapolis. Holy goodness, batman. I had the s'more cupcake--chocolate cake, with real marshmallows (toasted) and some graham on top--and it was out of this world. Apparently they have something like 30 varieties! I can tell you where I want my birthday cupcakes from!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Learn a New Way to Ride Metro Transit Ride Guide

A quick geeky note, I think this Metro Transit Ride Guide web tool is genius. I hope that Metro Transit won awards for it--great content and totally non-governmental styling. Way to make transit hip!!!

Image: Metro Transit

Mighty Lake Street

While I've promised to write more odes to University Avenue, I suspect that I'll also end up writing about some of the other major roadways that have done so much to shape the Twin Cities. Think Lake Street, Broadway, Central, Franklin, Washington, and Hennepin in Minneapolis and East and West 7th Street in St. Paul. Today I've got Lake Street on the brain because the folks at the Minnesota Historical Society shared the "Right on Lake Street" exhibit website with me. The website is great--it takes you on a tour of Lake Street from Lake Calhoun down to the river. It showcases some of the existing buildings along the street and when you click on the pulsing brown dots, a new window opens with historical tales and details about the place. Metro Transit also did this great map called "Hop and Shop" that shows the Route 21 bus route going down Lake Street with a bunch of the local businesses identified. Nothing brings more holiday cheer to this nerd's heart than the partnership of local retailers and our transit agency. Seriously.

Anyway, Lake Street is a lot like University Avenue, in that it links so many cultures and neighborhoods. The street has a different personality every few blocks. A couple of years after I left the Twin Cities, Wing Young Huie, did his amazing photo project, Lake Street USA. His photos of ordinary people and places were displayed in the windows of shops along the street. No glamour, just truth. The Walker Art Center has also created an online tour of Lake Street USA--allowing you to click on intersections and see the photos that Huie has taken there. Another great way to see the diversity of the street from your computer screen.

Of course the best way to experience the street is to get outside and walk it (preferably when the temperatures are above freezing). I'm hoping to dedicate several future posts to Lake Street and the role and shape that it takes on as it goes through the neighborhoods of Minneapolis.

Image: Wing Young Huie, "Marquette Bank: Lake Street" from the permanent collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

From Dylan to Prince and Spam to Greyhound Buses: 150 Years of MN History

In May 2008, the state of Minnesota will be celebrating its 150th anniversary of statehood. The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul has already begun the celebration with the MN 150 exhibit. I haven't been to the exhibit yet, but I did get a copy of the book "Minnesota 150: The People, Places, and Things that Shape Our State" and love all of the arcane trivia I now possess about my homeland.

The book and the exhibit reflect the input of thousands of Minnesotans who were asked to nominate the people, events and places that have shaped the state from over the years. The 150 items range from the inspiring (Paul Wellstone and Highway 61 on the North Shore) to the ugly (the 1920 Duluth lynchings and the US-Dakota War) from the funny (Spam and Burma Shave) to the lesser-known (Seymour Cray (inventor of the first supercomputer) and Robert Gilruth (launched the US space program)).

Looking through the 150 items, as well as all of the other topics that were nominated but not selected, it is clear that Minnesotans are an eclectic bunch. We have a rich and sometimes troubled history, with plenty of examples of smart, tireless individuals with big hearts, unmatched talent, and great ideas.

Image: Minnesota Historical Society

The State Fair All Year Round

I think it is pretty fascinating that the Minnesota State Fairgrounds are open to traffic all year. The other day for kicks (I have a pretty lame idea of what passes for fun these days!) my daughter and I took a left hand turn off of Snelling and headed into the fairgrounds via Dan Patch Parkway. Right through the turnstyles, headed toward the Midway, not a soul in sight. The funny thing is most of the booths with their banners and awnings are still intact. We passed the DFL booth where Jane had her photo taken with Al Franken this summer, we travelled under the empty chairs of the overhanging SkyGlider, and all the while the grandstand lurked in the distance. What a surreal experience. And how strange to have something that seems like private property open to the public way off season. I also found myself wondering if the MN State Fairgrounds are the most urban state fair grounds in the country? Anybody know? I bet this guy knows--his State Fair blog posts are amazing--plus he's got a State Fair countdown clock on his homepage! I love this state and its Fair fanatics!

Image: Paul Robertson (check out his photos on flickr--they're incredible.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Loving the Hood, Leveling the House

Residents living in places like Minneapolis' Linden Hills or Morningside in Edina--along with countless others who live in charming, and walkable neighborhoods--are confronting the issue of "tear downs." Smaller bungalows or cape cods in a desirable neighborhood are torn down and replaced with a larger (usually much larger) home with more modern amenities and interiors spaces. Even when the design and exterior materials of the house are meant to blend into the neighborhood, the shear size usually dwarfs the homes around it. No surprise, there seems to be a lot of schizophrenia around the issue. In the past week, the Star Tribune featured a new home built in Edina that was once the site of a cottage and is now home to a 3,300 sq. foot modern residence with details that are meant to make it fit into the neighborhood. Then today's Metro section reported on the Edina City Council's proposed moratorium on teardowns.

The issue is a tough one, pitting neighbors against neighbors, preservationists against property rights advocates. On the one hand, it seems that if artfully and tastefully done (as long as the property doesn't have historic value), a newer home in an older neighborhood shouldn't be a problem. But who legislates the aesthetics? What is tasteful, what is artful? How big is too big? When is a house too good just to tear down? Who is allowed to tear a house down--a homeowner wanting to expand for his/her family or a speculative developer? I certainly don't have the answers, but through this fog one thing is clear to me, people want the charm and convenience of neighborhoods like Linden Hills and Morningside. They also want homes that are larger than those built in the 1905 - 1930 range, have less maintenance issues, and more contemporary floor plans. The emergence of this issue says to me that smart developers and builders will find ways to marry these two demands and create newer versions of Linden Hills and Morningside that will age gracefully over time.

Image: Jim Lindberg

Monday, December 3, 2007

Urban Spelunking

I must begin this blog entry with a disclaimer--I do not advocate trespassing on private property. However, during my golden days at the U, I often heard tales of a labyrinthine tunnel system running below the campus that could be accessed via a manhole or a window well or some other trap door. And for some odd reason this memory popped into my head today and I decided to do some "googling" (which you certainly couldn't do back when I was an undergrad!) Lo and behold, I stumbled on a group of urban explorers who call themselves Action Squad. Not only have they penetrated the U's subterranean depths, they've busted into the Hamm's Brewery, spelunked into caves I've never even heard of, and they've got the pictures to prove it. And even if you don't approve of their activities, you should love that their tagline is an obscure quote from the righteous "Mikey" in the Goonies, who says "It's their time up there. Down here, it's our time."

Gone to the dogs

Every now and then I can't believe that we actually spend money to have our pound-rescued dog "groomed." But then I think about the disastrous attempts at bathing her in our tub and I realize that it is not about pampering the dog, it is more an odor-reduction strategy to keep the couch inhabitable. One reason that the dog needs groomed is because of our visits to the incredible Minnehaha off-leash dog park in Minneapolis. This is seriously the best dog-park around. The humans get to hike through the woods making their way down to the banks of the Mississippi. Dogs of all sizes dart excitedly in and out of the trees. The shoreline is sandy and if the dogs are lucky the Mississippi waters are just the right temperature. I'm not sure how frequently we'll get to the dog park in the winter, but I can only imagine how lovely it is this time of year.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Crafty City

The No Coast Craft-o-Rama had lots of really nice stuff. It was also great to see so many folks in the Midtown Exchange--supporting both the Midtown Global Market businesses as well as the artisans.

I'm sure most readers of this blog are familiar with the Midtown Exchange building, but for those who aren't it is an amazing feat of historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Located on Lake Street (at Elliot) in South Minneapolis, the building complex was once home to a Sears warehouse, store, and distribution center. It was built in 1928 and shuttered in 1994. Early development proposals called for razing the site and putting in big box retail. Thankfully the City of Minneapolis purchased the land, put conditions on its redevelopment, and got a developer who found a way to make an incredibly mixed-use project work at this location. Currently, the Midtown Exchange is home to condos, lofts, and rental apartments, the headquarters of Allina Hospitals and Clinics, the Midtown Global Market, a Hennepin County Service Center, and a hotel. Not to mention that it backs up to the Midtown Greenway!

At the craft show, Adam Turman was selling awesome screen prints of city icons. I bought a couple that will make a fine addition to our currently barren living room. Check out the sampling below.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Twin Cities Design Guide

Thanks to Anne for pointing out Design*Sponge's great city guide to the the Twin Cities. Check it out here.


Catch the Holiday Train and more opportunities to buy local

Does the idea of a freight train all decked out in Christmas lights and packed with holiday performers and Santa Claus get you--or perhaps younger members of your household --excited? Well you should plan on checking out the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. The train travels across Canada and the U.S. collecting food for the hungry and spreading holiday cheer. This year it will be stopping in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, December 11th. Specific locations and times below:

St. Paul: 7-8PM--Upper level of Central Parking System ramp at Broadway and Kellogg under the Lafayette Freeway Bridge and East end of old post office. Food and cash donations will benefit Second Harvest Heartland.

Minneapolis: 9-10PM--Canadian Pacific Railway's Shoreham Yard, 2800 Central Avenue, NE. Donations will benefit Eastside Neighborhood Services.

Also, if you're ready to delve into your gift shopping this weekend, there are two great local events:

The No Coast Craft Show and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Art Sale. Follow the links to get the details.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Garrison Keillor on Twin Cities Preservation, History, and Urbanism

Thanks to the wonders of the internet age, all of us can listen to the poignant, lucid, and oft-times hilarious keynote address that Garrison Keillor delivered at the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in St. Paul last month. If you've got 50-minutes or so, this is really worth a listen. I promise that you'll learn something, laugh out loud, and wonder how Mr. Keillor so successfully blends a history lesson, a call to action, and humor in such a seamless manner. Listen at MPR.

Image: MPR Photo, Bo Hakala

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Travel the World Without Leaving St. Paul

I posted an entry on Explore Minnesota's "My Favorite Minnesota" website today. If you go to the Arts and Culture tab and look for "Mary Kay's 9 Favorite Ways to Travel the World Without Leaving Saint Paul." Tell me what you think.

Art and the City

Thanks to the Rake's 10,000 Arts magazine, I've become acquainted with Gladys Beltran's artwork. She paints these wonderful cityscapes of Minneapolis and St. Paul. With their skewed perspective, they've got an almost childlike quality to them--but when you look at the composition as a whole, with its details and orientation, it's clear that this is the work of a talented artist.

All images: Gladys Beltran, view them at